Helping Bushfire-Hit Communities Recover and Rebuild
Wednesday 13 October 2021
In the pain caused by the pandemic, the impacts of devastating bushfires and ongoing recovery process for communities in NSW is often forgotten.
To help the recovery effort, Vinnies has two major initiatives, the Bushfire Community Grants Program and the multi-year Bushfire Recovery and Community Development Program (BRCD). This $2.2 million program has a longer-term focus on rebuilding community cohesion and improving the individual sense of wellbeing of local residents, as well as helping communities to be better prepared for future disasters.
One of the activities supported by the program is the Willawarrin Women’s Group, where community members come together to socialise, support one another, and access trauma management services. This great groups of women may have had their own difficult times, but continue to want help others.
The ladies have recently begun knitting woollen teddy bears for local not-for-profit for StandBy Inclusion, which visits households affected by the loss of family or community members to suicide. These bears are then sent out as a way of showing support and providing comfort to those who have lost someone to suicide. One member of the ‘teddies’ program says, “The message is that people in communities who don’t know you still care about your loss. Our experience shows that the teddies are as appreciated by adults as by children.”
So far, the Bushfire Recovery and Community Development Program has been rolled out in four local government areas and been well received. “The strength of the Vinnies brand was apparent in the first six months of the program,” said program manager John Fenech.
The BRCD program will be working closely with Vinnies Conferences in targeted areas such as Kempsey, Grafton, Nowra, and Ulladulla, with more to come in the future.
Meanwhile, the Bushfire Community Grants program offers project grants of up to $30,000 to help restore bushfire-affected communities, and at the time Round 3 closed in May some 46 applications had been submitted by grass roots organisations, totalling $987,657.